Mull and Iona slam council’s ‘extortionate’ new parking charges

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Opposition is growing to the council’s ‘extortionate’ new parking charges on Mull and Iona, which could bring ‘the London congestion charge’ to the islands and damage their ‘fragile’ economies.

A public meeting has been called for tomorrow (Friday November 9) at 4pm in Craignure Village Hall.

Iona Community Council urged Argyll and Bute Council to withdraw its ‘ill-considered and harmful proposal’, arguing it rids Fionnphort of all free parking, and imposes ‘a steep year-round tax on visitors’ – £9 per day, £63 per week, and £126 per fortnight – roughly double the charges in major cities.

Moreover, it is almost the central London congestion charge (£11.50 per day) ‘introduced as a massive deterrence to city visitors’.

‘We already have evidence of harm to businesses,’ community councillors wrote. ‘Since parking charges were introduced, visitors are forced to rush a visit, without stopping at island shops, restaurants and cafes, to get back to their vehicles and avoid a parking fine.’

The hikes also lay ‘a colossal unforeseen tax’ on commuters, ‘a £475 season ticket is a massive hit,’ they said, ‘possibly deterring [people] from continuing to work on the island.

‘The proposed charges are scattergun and highly inequitable. The charges in the Columba car park are unreasonable, disproportionate to mainland charges and unworkable for longer stay visitors and residents.

‘[They] risk causing multiple harmful impacts to the economies and island communities of Mull, Iona and Ulva. Yet the council is doing this without any meaningful justification and without assessment or consultation.

‘It would be more honest to acknowledge the primary impetus for introducing parking charges is raising central revenue.’

Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT) said new charges at the Craignure long-stay car park would eliminate free off-street parking for residents travelling as foot passengers to Oban.

MICT’s general manager Moray Finch said: ‘For those who try to hold down a job in Oban, the cost will increase from £7.20 per day/£36 per week to £16.20 per day/£81 per week. For most, this will be unaffordable, possibly forcing them to stop work or leave Mull.

‘Increasingly frequent disruptions to winter ferry timetables result in delays and cancellations. This will lead to excess parking charges and fines, unless the driver overpays.’

The Mull and Iona Ferry Committee said Craignure’s car park ‘is almost exclusively used by island residents, and is the principal car park for our lifeline ferry service’.

It said Craignure ferry terminal generated more than £1.4 million in revenue for the council last year, yet now it was adding more ‘by penalising islanders who have no choice but to go to the mainland for services which mainlanders take for granted’.

Craignure’s new charges too were ‘extortionate’. ‘If we compare long-stay commercial car parks at ports and airports, it is double what one would expect to pay.

‘It is also used by trades people who are working on the island but live in Oban or beyond. Some tradesmen have already indicated they will no longer serve Mull if these charges are introduced.

‘By removing a lorry park, you are choosing to force commercial vehicles onto the side of the road rendering the main road through Craignure single track. With vehicle movements in Craignure, just for the ferry alone exceeding 160,000 per year, what consideration has been made to road safety in this area?

‘The council is legally obliged to undertake an Island Community Impact Assessment before proposals are progressed; if it has been done, it has completely failed.’

All the changes, Mr Finch concluded, ‘will persuade some residents that life on the islands is untenable and they will migrate to the mainland. Depopulation of Mull will adversely affect viability of the island.’

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: ‘This is about protecting services, including maintaining roads safety and car park maintenance, used by local people and visitors to Argyll and Bute. Cuts to our funding mean that, like all councils, we must make changes to how we work.

‘If the proposals go ahead, season tickets, that can be used in car parks throughout Argyll and Bute, will be available.’

The full proposals are available on www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/trafficorders. Anyone wishing to object should send the grounds for objection in writing, providing their name and address, to the Head of Governance and Law, Argyll and Bute Council, Kilmory, Lochgilphead, Argyll, PA31 8RT or by emailing TRO-Objections@argyll-bute.gov.uk.